The measure would ban oil exports from the strategic reserve to China and “other countries of particular concern.”
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, speaks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington on Nov. 29, 2022. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / AP

President Joe Biden might be losing an oil export fight in Congress being led by a Maine senator.

The squabble comes at a time of questions about how the new Congress is going to function, given the hard time that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-California, had in securing his new job leading a razor-thin majority across the Capitol from a Democratic-led Senate still subject to a 60-vote filibuster.

A lot of nothing can happen a lot of the time in Washington. But there is still some bipartisanship, and we are seeing an example of it in a Republican-led fight against the White House on foreign policy involving the major domestic subject of oil, with U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, now at the center of it.

This week, Collins and U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, picked a fight with the Biden administration by   introducing a measure to ban exports from the nation’s petroleum reserve to China and “other countries of particular concern.” It comes at a time of high gas prices in the U.S. and across the world, a main justification for the bill.

“This legislation would help ensure that oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve only benefits Americans and our allies, not authoritarian regimes with a history of oppressing their people,” Collins said in a statement.

These exports to China are indirect and a little complicated, as explained last year. Oil is sold to companies that bid the highest for. Some of the companies are subsidiaries of foreign companies, and some export the oil to overseas buyers.

These exports still affect world markets and push gas prices down here, experts told the website. Less than 3 percent of this oil over the past five years has gone to China,   PBS reported. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm has   said Biden would veto the  House bill if it passed because it could raise prices.

“He will not allow the American people to suffer because of the backwards agenda that House Republicans are advancing,” she told reporters this week.

However, it is not just Republicans. While they forced a vote on a similar measure in the House earlier this month, it passed by a wide 331-97 vote, with 113 Democrats joining all members of the majority party. Maine’s two Democrats split, with U.S. Rep. Jared Golden of 2nd District backing it and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of the 1st District opposing the measure.

For now, Biden seems to be on the losing end of this political battle. It is unclear how quickly the Senate could take a vote on it with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, being able to delay things in the upper chamber, but Congress looks more aligned on this subject than they will be on most.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...